OLEAN — Olean has joined the ranks of 70 other cities worldwide in declaring itself a Charter for Compassion City.
The Common Council approved a resolution Tuesday evening designating the community as a Charter for Compassion City, by a vote of 5-2.
“This couldn’t come at a better time,” said council President John Crawford, D-Ward 5, as he opened discussions on the charter. “It’s got positive vibes written all over it.”
Rob Walk, a retired Olean City School District psychologist and member of the steering committee for the local charter, thanked the council for considering the measure.
“Our team has been working hard on it … we feel it will give us a significant boost,” he said. “I think it will make Olean an even more desirable place to move, raise a family and work.”
The charter is aimed at supporting civic groups and boosting volunteerism in the community, he added.
“We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion; to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate; to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures; to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity; to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings — even those regarded as enemies,” the charter states.
For more information on the charter, visit www.charterforcompassion.org.
First approached in May, council members said they wanted to learn more about the charter, and see more civic groups, businesses and residents sign on, before acting.
Aldermen Nate Smith, R-Ward 6, and Kevin Dougherty, R-Ward 4, voted no during a roll call vote.
“I don’t feel we as a city have anything to prove,” said Smith, who signed the charter almost a year ago on behalf of his family’s business. “We’re a very compassionate city, and I don’t feel the need to prove it.”
Smith also offered concerns over the city making the statement on behalf of the residents of the city.
“I’m not sure all 14,000 people appreciate being told how to feel,” he said.
“You have to back your partner’s play,” Dougherty said when voting no.
Crawford noted in response to Smith’s concerns that the city has taken stances before, like the Tree City USA program and allowing the Rotary Club to build a silent policeman in Lincoln Park.
“We do a lot of ceremonial duties, as well,” he said. “I don’t believe asking people to be compassionate … is too much to ask. I think in 2019 the world needs a little more compassion.”
“I don’t see it as a political statement, but as a social statement,” said Alderman Linda Witte, D-Ward 1.
“I believe … it is a little bit of activist philosophy,” Smith said, pointing to components involving social justice activism and concerns over Islamophobia that are planks of progressive activism. “Those are pretty political positions … I don’t think it’s in the purview of this board.”
(Contact reporter-editor Bob Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)